Welcome to the 19th Century

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

I *could* have added a piece of classical
art, but...
It's nice to see some Evangelical intellectuals (try to hide the snickering) finally get in tune with Chuck Darwin's 1859 publication. From NPR's Morning Edition this morning: Evangelicals Question the Existence of Adam and Eve.

Read it or listen to it, it'll take you 5 minutes.

A few highlights:
Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: "That would be against all the genomic evidence that we've assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all."
And Venema is part of a growing cadre of Christian scholars who say they want their faith to come into the 21st century. Another one is John Schneider, who taught theology at Calvin College in Michigan until recently. He says it's time to face facts: There was no historical Adam and Eve, no serpent, no apple, no fall that toppled man from a state of innocence.

"Evolution makes it pretty clear that in nature, and in the moral experience of human beings, there never was any such paradise to be lost," Schneider says. "So Christians, I think, have a challenge, have a job on their hands to reformulate some of their tradition about human beginnings."
Of course, we have the fire-and-brimstone crowd:
"From my viewpoint, a historical Adam and Eve is absolutely central to the truth claims of the Christian faith," says Fazale Rana, vice president of Reasons To Believe, an evangelical think tank that questions evolution. Rana, who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Ohio University, readily admits that small details of Scripture could be wrong. [ed note: Gee, thanks for that little glimmer, Faz]

"But if the parts of Scripture that you are claiming to be false, in effect, are responsible for creating the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, then you've got a problem," Rana says.
Yeah, a mighty mighty big problem. But that's OK. The Fundy church has a way of dealing with its internal heretics:
"You get evangelicals who push the envelope, maybe; they get the courage to work in sensitive, difficult areas," Harlow says. "And they get slapped down. They get fired or dismissed or pressured out."

Harlow should know: Calvin College investigated him after he wrote an article questioning the historical Adam. His colleague and fellow theologian, John Schneider, wrote a similar article and was pressured to resign after 25 years at the college.
So when your scientific research finds you at odds with the bible, and you suggest that perhaps we be less dogmatic in our approach to fundamentalism and try to read that book-of-books as allegory and poetry, you get fired.

The end of the article sums it up perfectly:
But others say Christians can no longer afford to ignore the evidence from the human genome and fossils just to maintain a literal view of Genesis.

"This stuff is unavoidable," says Dan Harlow at Calvin College. "Evangelicals have to either face up to it or they have to stick their head in the sand. And if they do that, they will lose whatever intellectual currency or respectability they have."

"If so, that's simply the price we'll have to pay," says Southern Baptist seminary's Albert Mohler. "The moment you say 'We have to abandon this theology in order to have the respect of the world,' you end up with neither biblical orthodoxy nor the respect of the world."

Mohler and others say if other Protestants want to accommodate science, fine. But they shouldn't be surprised if their faith unravels. [emphasis added]
There is a certain pridefulness in Mohler's willingness to be an intellectual martyr over the tenets of his faith, and that is so typical of folks willing to dive head-long into the sand. Mohler's last comment is exactly why: the fear of what happens as your faith unravels in the face of real evidence.

What do you do? You've been brought up to believe this series of stories as literally true, and that the nature of your belief in and love of God - everything you know to be good and moral and comfortable - is in question.

Or is it?

Somehow the Catholic Church has found a way to apologize for its treatment of Galileo and his findings, accept what science has to offer, and still attract a billion followers world-wide. The Dalai Lama published a nice little thoughtful book called The Universe in a Single Atom about how science and spirituality can converge if you view them as complimentary and allow that science is built to unlock answers to physical questions.

All they really lose by unburying their heads is an illogical literal belief in old stories if they still truly want to cling to God; a huge number of people are there already, given what most educational curricula still look like. Maybe the faith that unravels is faith in literal truth of poetry. Maybe the faith that unravels is all faith altogether. Either way, there is no reward for obstinance and ignorance other than ridicule and the departure of your former adherents as they accept the world as it really is.


Bob 11:26 AM  

Maybe science will one day discover proof of God's existence.

*I don't actually believe this, but it’s a nice thing to say to your friendly, neighborhood fundie.

Bob 11:29 AM  

"Mohler and others say if other Protestants want to accommodate science, fine. But they shouldn't be surprised if their faith unravels."

Bingo - They have so little faith that they fear science will undo their faith? Huh?

It's called "faith" for a reason. What does that tell you about the crap you are selling dude?

Smitty 1:28 PM  

I really think you hit it on the head, Bob. Nobody is strong in faith. Faith goes against our very nature. But some folks are cowed into it by gullibility or fear (while others have it because they just do...they are able to accept it and thrive and build on it); those folks have a weak link to faith and I think are the most afraid of "losing" it. If they see that one piece of evidence, they know it all goes away for them, so better to bury their head in the sand.

steves 7:56 AM  

Personally, I have never had too much of a problem with this, but I can see where a person. I have never been some kind of absolutist, but I also try not to be the kind of person that just follows the rules that I like and ignores the "hard" ones.

Monk-in-Training 8:42 AM  

I never had a problem with this either. St. Augustine didn't think it was worth fighting over, all those centuries ago.

Augustine’s observation from On Genesis (li. 8. de Genes. ad liter. cap. 5.):

Melius est dubitare de occultis quam litigare de incertis.

Which means something like: It is better to make doubt of those things which are secret, than to strive about those things that are uncertain.

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